DNR, National Guard remain ready amid critical fire danger in northern Wisconsin

The DNR has responded to 281 wildfires in the state this year
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 12:56 PM CDT|Updated: May. 15, 2023 at 6:41 PM CDT
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RHINELANDER, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wisconsin DNR has asked people to avoid burning due to critical fire danger across northern Wisconsin.

A fire weather watch is in effect and the DNR and partners at the National Weather Service are closely monitoring the situation. Fire control officials are pre-positioning equipment for rapid response in Rhinelander.

“DNR fire resources are on high alert today we have access to Wisconsin Army National Guard BlackHawk helicopters, they’re going to be stationed in Rhinelander today. We also have two single-engine air tankers that can dump water on fires that are stationed in Solon Springs Wisconsin,” said Catherine Koele, wildfire prevention specialist, Wisconsin DNR.

The Sandy Pines areas of northern Wisconsin are always the slowest to green up. Additionally, tree growth in this part of the state is volatile. Combined with very low humidity and the potential for winds, fires can spread out of control rapidly at this time.

“Things are progressing in the southern part of the state in terms of vegetation greening up. Once that vegetation greens up that lessens that fire danger. We’re still in a very critical time in the northern part of the state, especially in our sandy and pine areas,” said Koele.

Areas with ‘very high’ fire danger Monday include Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Florence, Forest, Iron, Langlade, Lincoln, Marinette, Oconto, Oneida, Polk, Price, Sawyer, Vilas, and Washburn counties.

Areas with ‘high’ fire danger include Barron, Chippewa, Marathon, Menominee, Rusk, Shawano, and Taylor counties.

All DNR-issued annual burning permits for debris piles, burn barrels and prescribed burns are suspended today in 21 counties where the DNR has burning permit authority.

The DNR has responded to 281 wildfires burning more than 3,358 acres so far this year. Most of these were related to debris burning, which is the single largest cause of wildfires in Wisconsin.

The current fire danger in the southern half of the state is low as vegetation has greened up and the area has received periodic rain over the last few weeks.